The region is known to have been populated from early antiquity, and Mazandaran has changed hands among various dynasties from early in its history. There are several fortresses remaining from Parthian and Sassanid times, and many older cemeteries scattered throughout the province. During this era, Mazandaran was part of Hyrcania Province which was one of important provinces.
With the advent of the Sassanid dynasty, the King of Mazandaran (Tabaristan and Padashkhwargar) was Gushnasp , whose ancestors had reigned in the area (under the Parthian empire) since the time of Alexandar. In 529-536 Mazandarn was ruled by Sassanid prince Kawus son of Kawadh. Anushirawan, the Sassanid king, put in his place Zarmihr, who claimed his ancestry from the legendary blacksmith Kaveh. This dynasty ruled till 645 A.D., when Gil Gawbara (a descendant of the Sassanid king Jamasp and a son of Piruz) joined Mazandaran to Gilan. These families had descendants who ruled during the Islamic period.
During the post-Islamic period the local dynasties fall into three classes: 1. local families of pre-Islamic origin, 2. the ʿAlid sayyid s, and 3. local families of secondary importance.
The Bawandids who claimed descent from Kawus provided three dynasties. The first dynasty (665-1007) was overthrown on the conquest of Tabaristan by the Ziyarid Kabus b. Wushmgir. The second dynasty reigned from 466/1073 to 606/1210 when Mazandaran was conquered by 'Ala al-Din Muhammad Khwarzamshah. The third ruled from 635/1237 to 750/1349 as vassals of the Mongols. The last representative of the Bawandids was killed by Afrasiyab Chulawi.
The Karinids claimed descent from Karin, brother of Zarmihr who was the pre-Islamic ruler under the Sassanids. Their last representative Mazyar was put to death in 224/839.
The Paduspanids claimed descent from the Dabyuids of Gilan (their eponym was the son of Gīl Gawbāra). They came to the front about 40/660 and during the rule of the ʿAlids were their vassals. Later, they were vassals of the Buyids and Bawandids, who deposed them in 586/1190. The dynasty, restored in 606/1209-10, survived till the time of Timur; one of its branches (that of Kawus the son of Kayumarth) reigned till 975/1567 and the other (that of Iskandar the son of Kayumarth) till 984/1574.
In 662 CE, ten years after the death of Yazdegerd III the last Sassanian Emperor, a large Muslim army under the command of Hassan ibn Ali (Imam Hassan, the second Shi'a Imam) invaded Tabarestan (Mazandaran as it was then called) only to be severely beaten, suffering heavy losses to the forces of the Zoroastrian princes of the Dabboyid house. For the next two hundred years, Tabaristan maintained an existence independent of the Umayyad Caliphate which supplanted the Persian Empire in the early seventh century, with independent Zoroastrian houses like the Bavand and Karen fighting an effective guerilla warfare against Islam. A short-lived Alid Shiite state collapsed before the subsequent take-over by the Ziyarid princes. Mazandaran, unlike much of the rest of the Iranian Plateau maintained a Zoroastrian majority until the 12th century, thanks to its isolation and hardy population which fought against the Caliph's armies for centuries. Image:Mahmoodabad.jpg|thumb|left|The resort of National Iranian Oil Company, near Mahmoodabad.
During the Abbasid caliphate of Abou Jafar Al-Mansur, Tabaristan witnessed a wave of popular revolt. Ultimately, Vandad Hormoz established an independent dynasty in Tabaristan in 783. In 1034, Soltan Mahmoud Ghaznavi entered Tabarestan via Gorgan followed by the invasion of Soltan Mohammad Kharazmshah in 1209. Thereafter, the Mongols governed the region and finally were overthrown by the Timurid Dynasty. After the dissolution of the feudal government of Tabaristan, Mazandaran was incorporated into modern Persian Empire by Shah Abbas I in 1596. In the Safavid era Mazandaran was settled by Georgian migrants, whose descendants still live across Mazandaran. Still many towns, villages and neighbourhoods in Mazandaran bear the name "Gorji" (i.e. Georgian) in them, although most of the Georgians are already assimilated into the mainstream Mazandaranis. The history of Georgian settlement is described by Eskandar Beyg Monshi, the author of the 17th century Tarikh-e Alam-Ara-ye Abbasi, in addition many foreigners e.g. Chardin, and Della Valle, have written about their encounters with the Georgian Mazandaranis.
Mazandaran is located on the Southern coast of Caspian Sea, it is bordered clockwise by Golestan, Semnan and Tehran provinces ). Province also lies Qazvin and Gilan to the west. Mazandaran province is geographically divided into two parts: the coastal plains, and the mountainous areas. The Alborz Mountain Range surrounds the coastal strip and plains of the Caspian Sea like a huge barrier.
There is often snowfall during most of the seasons in the Alborz regions, which run parallel to the Caspian Sea's southern coast, dividing the province into many isolated valleys. The province enjoys a moderate, semitropical climate with an average temperature of 25 °C in summer and about 8 °C in winter. Although snow may fall heavily in the mountains in winter, it rarely falls around sea lines.
The population of the province has been steadily growing during the last 50 years. The following table shows the approximate province population, excluding the Golestan province, which has separated as an independent province in 1998
The population is of Iranian stock with a large admixture of Turkic tribes (esp. the Turkomen), a sizable Armenian minority and Russian immigrants, mainly from former Soviet republics of Georgia (country), Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Mazandaran is still famous for its Arab or Turkomen horses brought over there.
The province covers an area of 46,656 km². According to the census of 1996, the population of the province was 2,602,008 of which 45.89% were registered as urban dwellers, 54.1% villagers, and remaining were non-residents. Sari is the capital city of the province.
Mazandaran is divided into 15 shahrestans (approximately equal to counties). All the shahrestans are named after their administrative center, except Savadkooh. The following map shows the respective positions of the shahrestans.
Dasht-e Naz Airport, serving the capital Sari, Noshahr Airport, and Ramsar Airport are the domestic airports that connect the province to the other parts of the country. There are some Hajj flights from Dasht-e Naz Airport as well.
Mazandaran is served by the North Railway Dept. of the Iranian Railways. The department connects the province to Tehran to the south and Gorgan to the east. The cities of Sari, Qaemshahr, and Pol Sefid are major stations of the department.
The cuisine of the province is very rich in seafood due to its location by the Caspian Sea, and rice is present in virtually every meal. Indeed, the rest of Iran was introduced to rice through Gilan and Mazandaran. Before the 1800s, Persians, Kurds, and other Iranian ethnic groups used bread rather than rice as an accompaniment to their meals, though bread remains a prominent staple among them. While bread remains very popular among those groups, in Gilan and Mazandaran, rice remains the choice staple of the indigenous inhabitants.
Mazanderani or Tabarian (Avestan:Vernan, Pahlavi:Tapari]]) is Northwestern Iranian language. Various Mazandarani's dialects exist which are spoken in Mazandaran province and the neighbour province Golestan such as Mazanderani, and Gorgani. Also, Qadikolahi (Ghadikolahi) and Palani may be dialects. Mazandarani mostly resemble Gilaki. Today, Mazandaranis also use Persian (Western Persian). The educated can communicate and read Persian well.
A region called Mazandaran is mentioned frequently in Persian epic Shahnameh, it is an area in north of Iran which is mostly inhabited by Div (demons). The legendary Iranian Shah Kaykavoos as well as the Iranian hero Rostam each take turn to go to Mazandaran in order to battle the demons.
شنیدم یکی نو سخن بس گران ..........که شه دارد آهنگ مازندران
"I heard troubling news that the king is planning to go to Mazandaran"
However, this Mazandaran is not considered identical to the modern province of Mazandaran, and is instead a land to the west of Iran. The current province was simply considered a part of Tabaristan; the name Mazandaran is a later development, perhaps based upon local terminology.
Interesting note: Being formerly part of the kingdom of Taparia or Tabaristan, two famous 9th-century Mazandarani scholars are from Mazandaran, both commonly called "al-Tabari" (An Arabic term meaning simply "from Taparia").
Suitable environmental conditions, pleasant and moderate climate, beautiful natural landscapes, and proximity to Tehran, have led the province to be one of the main recreational and tourism areas of Iran.
Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization lists close to 630 sites of historical and cultural significance, hence a wealth of tourist attractions.